Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Super space-agey super supermarkets in Seoul with smart phones

This story from geek.com is just so Jetsons it's freaking me out:
According to Tesco, Koreans are the second hardest working people in the world, and time is literally money. Taking an hour a week for grocery shopping can be a real drag, so the company devised a way to have the store come to the people. Tesco set up virtual grocery stores in locations like subway/metro stations so that people can literally do their grocery shopping while waiting for the train.

The walls are plastered with posters that resemble the aisles and shelves of a supermarket. They’re lined from top to bottom with the products you’d normally see while grocery shopping. The only difference is that you can’t just grab the product and check out. The groceries each have a QR code which the shopper scans with a smartphone camera and adds to a shopping list. When the shopper has scanned all the codes for all the groceries needed, he pays using his phone and the groceries are then delivered to his home.

QR-code-based shopping allows the customer to shop at more locations, many of which are more convenient than making a trip to the grocery store. A big advantage of getting your groceries delivered right to your door is that in major cities where driving isn’t really an option, people are left lugging heavy bags on the train and up a couple of flights of stairs before they reach their door.
It's described in this video:

The story notes that one problem is that "checking out the product’s information will be impossible" because "the shopper won’t be able to turn the product around to see the nutritional facts," but I think that's easily fixable by providing QR code-accessible information at the virtual store which can pop nutritional facts and what-not onto your smart phone. Something similar is already available in the US with various bar code scanner apps showing where a certain product is the cheapest.

What I think is a real problem is getting fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, etc. If these items are part of the service, you run the risk of getting bruised bananas or meat with too much fat, etc. Or maybe they won't have these perishables at all, and this will lead to the populace consuming even greater amounts of processed food, to the exclusion of fresh items.

I'm guessing there would also be an issue with embarrassing items, like feminine products, condoms, gray hair removal products, etc. Who wants to be standing in a subway station waving their smart phone over something like that?

We shall see. Right now, this is is just way cool. I'd actually start taking the subway more if I had this as an option. I wonder, though, if foreign nationals will have trouble registering for this with their 외국인등록번호, as is often the case with other sites.

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